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National Science Foundation (USA) 2009

Anthropogenic Fire, Human Foraging Strategies, and Ecosystem Dynamics in the Western Desert of Australia

Fire Desert Australia


Titre Anthropogenic Fire, Human Foraging Strategies, and Ecosystem Dynamics in the Western Desert of Australia

Organismes NSF : Division Of Behavioral and Cognitive Sci (BCS)

Durée : May 1, 2009 — April 30, 2014

Stanford University anthropologists, Dr. Rebecca Bliege Bird and Dr. Douglas W. Bird, will undertake research on the social and ecological contexts of foraging, landscape burning, and habitat modification among Martu aborigines in Australia’s Western Desert. Indigenous burning is increasingly recognized as an important force in shaping plant communities and biodiversity in the United States and around the world. However, the ability of scientists to directly observe the complex relationships between human culture and subsistence, climate change, and the patterning of fire is hampered by the fact that few indigenous communities have relative autonomy in burning. In this regard, Australia provides a unique research opportunity.
The impact of anthropogenic fire is considered to be particularly significant in Australia, where indigenous burning has been hypothesized to have radically altered the continent’s biogeography. Furthermore, many aboriginal communities in the arid interior still have relative autonomy in fire application. Therefore, research that examines Australian practices will (a) inform models of fire management in similar arid regions in the United States ; (b) illuminate the effects of fire suppression in contexts where anthropogenic burning has been a critical component of habitat structure ; and (c) test the hypothesis that human impacts on the environment did not begin with agriculture, but extend to hunters and gatherers throughout human evolutionary history.
The researchers will develop basic analytical tools and collect new data to characterize how land-use and fire treatment affects variability in key components of arid lands diversity and habitat fragmentation. They will employ a variety of research methods including analysis of climate data and LandSat photos, detailed landscape mappings, focal follows of Martu individuals, transect mappings, and agent-based modeling.
The research is important because it will allow scientists to better understand how the interaction between land-use and fire may be mediated by climate change, how it affects plant and animal densities and distributions, and how, in a politically decentralized society, individuals overcome problems of collective action in supplying future benefits derived from burning. The project will also support both graduate and undergraduate education.

Partenaire (s) : Rebecca Bird rbird (Principal Investigator) Douglas Bird (Co-Principal Investigator)

Sponsor  : Stanford University 3160 Porter Drive Palo Alto, CA 94304-1212 (650)723-2300

Financement : $500,001.00

Présentation (National Science Foundation)

Page publiée le 9 avril 2017, mise à jour le 7 novembre 2017